Can an Omnipotent God Move an Immovable Stone?By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND8/4/2008
Philosophers have employed various forms of the argument that God cannot do contradictory things to challenge the existence of God and Biblical validity. The conundrum of God vs. stone lies in the plausible Biblical attribution of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence to God. Thus, the philosopher may confront the logical validity of the Bible if it makes claim to a God which cannot exist.
Skeptics who doubt the existence of God, and the validity of Christianity and the Bible, use the contradiction of an omnipotent God and an immovable stone as an example of the inconsistency of the Christian God with the Biblical text, and thus cast doubt on the validity of the entirety of scripture. If the Bible clearly stated that God can simultaneously manifest contradictory qualities, and He cannot, then this casts doubt on the credibility of the Bible, its interpreters, and the existence of God. If such blatant contradiction exists, it would reduce the Bible (the source of God’s revelation) and its champions to self-contradiction. Such contradiction, if clearly stated by the Bible, would place its validity, trustworthiness, and Truth in question.
But, these criticisms are invalid. The attribution of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence are poetic characterizations of God. God creates law and rules of movement and possibility. He follows those rules Himself because the rules are necessary to create a universe which works. Thus it is by choice that God does not violate the logical mutual exclusivity to show His power. Biblical descriptions of God’s character, judgment, and capacity were written in many contexts: as metaphor, broad characterizations, general ruling, universal Truth, and situational response.
We cannot know for certain the intent, context, applicability, or limits of any particularity or generality of Scripture. But, the miracle is that we still we have a foundation and ground upon which to base our faith, life, and morality. The Holy Spirit speaks to us, and brings words, phrases, insights, and possibilities to mind, and as such, the Bible serves as God’s voice.
The skeptic will reply that anyone can say the same thing about any belief system. And this is true. Thus, the question is, “What is the fruit of following the holism, the totality, the spirit of following and living the way of the Holy Scriptures?” I contend that a man who holds the scripture both loose and tight, listens to the Holy Spirit, and acts on that wise and adult leading will maximize his life’s joy and profitability.
The skeptics have set up a straw man, and proceed to win against this argument with flawed premises. They argue that God, who they declare as omnipotent cannot logically move an immovable stone. Thus, by extension, they impugn the authoritative apologists of the faith, as defending a God whose very characteristics make logically contradictory.
But this argument resolves when we examine the character and capabilities of the Judeo-Christian God. This God is Yahweh of the Bible, the creator of all of Heaven and Earth, the maker of all worlds of name and form. This is the God who is the source of all Laws both natural and human. This God is capable of creating a universe with any conditions that He declares existent in that domain. God can manifest the fullness of any trait He chooses, but mutually contradictory traits can only be expressed in separate, non-interacting domains, or specific situations separated by time and space.
If God chooses to create a universe where He cannot move a stone, it is only because He has chosen to limit His own actions in that realm. Prior to creating the limits of that creation, God could create that universe to have any rule He wished. But, after the creation’s rules have been established, He would have to break the rules He has established for Himself. God has chosen to limit Himself in His actions in the creation.
The example of predetermination and free will both being true well illustrates the principle of separating domains to resolve a paradox. In predetermination, we speculate that God has a predetermined plan as to how the play of the universe will proceed in its perfection. But, He has created a universe which allows for Free Will, thus He does not that will upon mankind with absolute command authority. Rather, He has limited His command of man’s actions so as to only have influence on the human play. Such limitation allows God to function as an involved participant in the evolution of life. It allows God to be in relationship with humanity, rather than functioning as a commander or as the watchmaker who has wound it up and let it run. God has limited Himself in this world, intervening with command power only at occasional times, as opposed to requiring that all of man’s actions follow His optimum, planned, or prescribed will. These principalities can both exist, even though contradictory, only if they occupy separate domains, and have a weak connection across the domain interface. Thus, predetermination and free will both operate in the earth-heaven system, but free will resides and has major effect on the earth plane, whereas predetermination has primary effect in the heaven plane. Predetermination and free will are contradictory conditions, but they can coexist and both be true when we consider that they exist in different domains and the two influence rather than command each other.
As author of the rule, “that a stone shall be immoveable”, God is fully in control of that stone’s immovability. To create a universe requires rules, boundaries, and limits be set for the creation, creatures, and creator. God always has the power of His creative Word, and can use it to declare the existence of limits (e.g. that the boundary of life and death shall remain obscured from human vision).
God can use His Word to declare that the creation shall manifest in a certain manner which both man and He/Himself/God shall be subject to. God could declare that a stone shall be immovable, but that stone is immoveable only because God has chosen to declare it so. Such is the nature of the universe; it has a set of rules, laws, limits, and boundaries. And, one of those limits that He can choose to impose upon the universe is to honor His self-imposed limitations.
The moment that God chooses to reprogram the universe, and declare the stone moveable, He will allow Himself to move that stone. God can make that declaration at any time. Again, the stone was immoveable only because God chose to limit His own actions. Having the ability to move or not move an object, depends on the limits He places on Himself at the time. Thus, God is fully capable of moving an immovable object, He must merely decide that now is the time to change the rules of that domain. The fact that He has chosen to declare it immoveable in this creation does not detract in any way from His ability to move it. He can move it, but chooses not to move it out of deference to His own self imposed Law.
Thus, the immovability of a stone is therefore a temporary, state-dependent condition which can be modified simply by choosing to remove the self-limitation. Such is the nature that one would expect of an omnipotent God. That is, one who could establish laws, and who honors the laws which He Himself has made.
In this situation where God was using His power to declare self-limitation of action, God’s omnipotent power was always present. His action was self-limited by choice. Such limitation is one of the standard tools that God uses in creating a creation. For example, He declares that gravitational force attracts, and He honors that condition of the creation by allowing mass to fall down the gravitational gradient. But, at any moment He could declare gravitation repulsive, and the creation would follow suit.
Thus, the immoveable stone is simply an example of one of the conditions that could be declared by God as He defines the character of His creation. Thus, God is always potent, powerful, and capable of all actions at all times in His innate nature, but He does not choose to act out his potential at all times. It is this limitation on God’s power that makes the world predictable. God is dependable and has created a rule-based, force-reaction based universe which provides adequate stability upon which to live our lives, but sufficient chaotic variability and divine intervention to create an interesting and constantly challenging platform.
The paradox of “the irresistible force and the immovable object”, resolves by separating the two concepts (irresistible force and immovable object) into two different domains. The irresistible force is the primary principle operating in the domain of the pre-creation, where the creative declarative rule-establishing Word of God can define and establish any rule set for the creation.
The immovable object does not exist outside of the creative, declarative Word of God. In other words, the immovable object is a creation not a creator. Thus, the immovable object exists only in the domain of the post-creation where the rules of the physical universe have been fully established. In the post-creation domain, God has already set limits on the creation, creatures, and Creator, and all these parties must operate by the rules established by God.
Thus, the paradox resolves by separating these two mutually exclusive principles into two domains where their particular property exists. The irresistible force exists as a manifest force in the pre-creation state, and exists as a potential in the post-creation state. The immoveable stone only exists in the post-creation state; since the stone is not self-created, it only has the properties of immovability because of the irresistible declaration of an omnipotent God. These two domains, pre- and post-creation, are sufficiently separated such that the conditions of the two domains do not interact and affect each other with the force of absolute command.
Conversely, consider the hypothetical situation where another universe existed that was not created by the God of this universe. In this second universe, the God of this universe would not have absolute authority. Thus, if the God of another universe declared a stone “immovable” in His creation, then the stone would not move by the authority of a foreign word. If the God of this (our) universe has no authority to create or establish rules in another universe, He would be incapable of exerting an irresistible force in that second universe. Thus, by definition, He would not be God of that universe, as was already known and established as the initial condition of the example.
God is capable of doing contradictory and mutually exclusive actions, but a domain barrier must separate these contradictory actions. God has full authority to create the universe with any set of rules that He desires, but for God to execute the mutually exclusive conditions demanded by the skeptic, the contradictory conditions must be separated into different domains so as to allow each condition to manifest. The separation of domains does not detract from the truth and validity of the unique manifestation in that domain, nor does it negate the properties of God. The two domains (pre and post creation) are examples of sets, and the characteristics of immovable and irresistible are examples of subset properties. God has the capability of irresistible force acting in both pre and post creation domains, but He chooses not to exercise all of His irresistible power in the post-creation domain.
God can create a universe (the post-creation state) with any set of rules and any set of manifestations. In any particular universe He may create either a moveable or an immovable stone. But once created, the universe must follow the rules established by His own declarative Word. A God with the power to create a creation with any conditions according to His will is a God consistent with the representation of God in the Christian Bible. A prime example of scripture that reveals God in His creative act is as follows:
John 1:1 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Thus, the contradiction resolves; the God of the Bible is capable of all things and is thus Omnipotent. He is capable of all things, including moving an immovable stone, but only after having changed His declaration of self-limitation with regard to moving the stone, and given Himself permission to move it.
A further examination of the prerogatives of omnipotence is the ability to create a universe in any manner He chooses, including the allowance of exceptions and conditions where rules are violated. Thus, God can choose to declare as a post-creation rule, “I hereby declare this stone immoveable. But, this stone may be moved if I choose to show that I can move an immovable stone when a skeptic of my existence challenges me to move it and prove the fact of my irresistible omnipotent force.” But, such a caveat would not be embedded in the creation because the Bible has revealed that God will not perform to prove Himself existent.
Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'”
We see numerous examples of this self-limitation in the operation of nature, and the backdoor caveat inserted to allow for miracles. In general God does not intervene and lets the laws of nature operate without interference or exception. But, in the case of forming the dust of the earth to create plant, animal, and man, God has injected spiritual force, the command of Word, to operate and modify the course of natural law. Such caveats and exceptions are not examples of the law being broken, but rather are examples that give illustration to a more full elaboration of the details of the Law.
Can an Omnipotent God Move an Immovable Stone?By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND8/4/2008